Catnip – the cat’s drug of choice

A human getting high is too cliché, but cats getting high is something you cannot miss! If you are fond of cats and love spending your time watching cat videos, then you already must have come across videos of cats on catnip. The videos are hilarious as the cats are ultra-active and they behave bizarrely, but the most human question to ask here is ‘why does it happen?’ What is catnip and which specific property makes these felines feel high?

What is Catnip?

  • Catnip is basically a perennial herb which belongs to the mint family. It is a plant native to Europe as well as Asia. Later, it was exported to the rest of the parts of the world. It is usually 2-3 feet long. The leaves are heart-shaped, soft and fuzzy. The blooms of this plant can be pink, lavender or white in colour.
  • Its biological composition includes a small organic compound called nepetalactone which is found in the leaves and the stems. The nepetalactone is the cause for the ‘madness’ in cats.
  • Talking in the language of chemistry, nepetalactone is a monoterpenoid compound. It is the most common isomer in Nepeta cataria.

What does it do to cats?

The nepetalactone acts as a stimulator when sniffed by cats; it affects the feline pheromones and triggers receptors. The experience is usually considered to be as same as what humans undergo after consuming LSD or marijuana. The reaction episode continues for 10-15 minutes and gradually, the effects start wearing off.

40% of the cats do not get blown, however, the rest of them do. Some cats get very playful, whereas the others simply mellow out. For cats that eat catnip, it acts as a sedative, others who sniff it, get hyperactive. The hyperactive ones may respond by rolling restlessly, running around and flipping over. They get more attentive towards the stuffed animals rather than their actual preys. It is mostly used by owners to train their cats. They give the catnips as a reward to them.

The effects of catnip are not only restricted to cats, but it also applies to all those who belong to the cat family. Tigers, Snow Leopards, and some other big cats react to nepetalactone. Not all big cats are likely to respond to it, for example, Cheetahs are unresponsive. Species like rabbits, mice, pigs, dogs, and other species have no reaction to catnip. It is also observed that female cats reflect stronger reactions than male cats.

If cats are given catnip on a regular basis, they will eventually get immune to its use and as a consequence, they will not respond to it. That is why it is often recommended that it shouldn’t be given more once or twice a month.

How to use catnip?

Catnip and its products are easily available in the market. Products based on catnip come in various forms. One common variety is flakes. They can be found in different price ranges, depending on the quality. Catnip Spray is another popular product for cats. It is simply sprayed on them during the playtime. Catnip Oil is as same as oil but it is more concentrated and it stays for longer. It is strong; therefore it must be diluted before use. One more fun variety is the Catnip Bubbles, cats love them as they get to play and get high at the same time. Apart from these, there is a whole toy range which contains toys stuffed with catnip.

Also, many cats like catnip in its raw form. It is easy on the pocket of the cat owner as they don’t have to spend much on the processed forms. As catnip grows in different colors, they are attracted to them and are fond of rolling on them.

Why do cats like it?

When Nepetalactone enters the cat’s system, it distorts the sensory neurons for a while. Different emotion and behavior controlling areas of the brain get ineffective by this organic compound. As a result, the cats act funny. The duration of the response depends on the dosage. So, I suppose it’s because they like the effect.

How to use it?

Catnip is absolutely safe for your furball. Doctors do not approve of anything that does long-term harm to your pet. After the trip, the cat turns normal with no side-effects. There may be a short spell of diarrhoea but it’s only a short-term effect. It is non-addictive and completely safe.

Instead, scientists have discovered that it does the contrary of what people fear of. It benefits the overall health of the cat. It helps in expelling intestinal gas, alleviate vomiting, and calm anxiousness. Catnip is a go-to herb for cold and flu. It is extremely helpful for a feverish state. It’s also a great sleep inducer if fed an appropriate portion of it. It helps in reducing the risk of diabetes and age-related illness like Arthritis and Hyperthyroidism.

Though it is considered safe for your cat, it is still advised to use catnip free of pesticides and fillers. Pesticide-free catnip is hard to find, which hints at planning to grow your own catnip. Growing some for your cat is a good idea indeed, but make sure you do not do it in an open space. Or else, be ready to welcome a bunch of cats from your neighbourhood!

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